Businesses have been promising smart home revolution since ’50s, but failed to deliver because of pre-mature technical solutions and consumer conservatism. Today, with cloud computing, IoT and mobile app development
on the rise, the market is said to reach $12 bln by 2018, with 45 mln systems installed. Shall we take it serious this time?
Smart Home Landscape
Connected home devices of today all fall into one of the following sectors:
- HEM (Home Energy Management)
- Home Automation
- Smart Meters
- Home Security
- Home medical monitoring
- OTT & VOD
- Online games
Sometimes, the term ‘home automation’
is used to encompass and refer to all of them.
4 key vertical segments they are called to serve are:
- Smart utilities
- Security & safety
- Healthcare (Assisted living)
Although connectivity in house utilities is still considered a novelty rather than mainstream necessity, major tech giants already compete for the niche. Apple, Google, Samsung, AT&T, etc, all invest hard in the development or acquisition of smart home technologies. Google, for example, acquired Nest, while Samsung bought a home automation ambitious startup SmartThings, and Apple introduced HomeKit. Venture capital companies watch out for and support smart home startups, while crowdfunding platforms announce successfully completed projects on the topic almost every week.
This shows huge market potential for smart house technologies, which lies on the intersection of hardware, network connectivity, service enablement services, and value-added services (mobile apps and content). The latter is of special interest to app development studios: according to a recent study, 35% of developers who work on IoT projects focus on home automation. Let’s have a closer look what’s available on the market at present.
Best Home Automation Systems
SmartThings connects various smart home sensors and devices to their proprietary platform. A hub plus sensors are sold as a kit for around $300, and can be easily controlled and monitored from a phone screen.
A leap forward is that the technology is open, so a user is free to connect any compatible device to the system and control it through any mobile application. The SmartThings app developed for iOS will then consolidate several apps for various smart subsystems into one.
Additionally, SmartThings teaches devices to communicate with one another, which opens more exciting possibilities.
Nest smart thermostats together with the app present an elegant solution to home temperature control. Although not a complete home automation system, it is extremely popular due to simplicity and availability, and can be a good first step to smarter living.
The app enables you to control Philips Hue bulbs kit sold for $200. Anything from a relaxing to party lighting mood is now available at the tap of a finger, so that a classical light switch might fall into oblivion in the near future.
A small device makes anything that can be plugged into the wall smart. A basic kit costs as little as $80, and allow users to automate whatever they need most, and then connect newly created smart objects to the WeMo app.
This application is compatible with a number of Alarm.com-enabled systems. It also offers geo-based services, and performs actions according to owner’s GPS location.
Home Automation Systems: Issues to Solve
As we see from above, the market is already passing its basic stage of development with scattered single-purpose devices and entering a more sophisticated one, connecting devices of same vertical into unified control hubs. Yet, the ultimate vision for smart home is an integrated system where data flows freely between various home systems to provide home owners with ultimate value. There is a number of serious issues to solve before consumers can fully embrace this new smart home reality.
First, interoperability standards.
Connected devices of today are early-generation products designed with cost-minimization goals in mind and employing numerous networking protocols, including Z-wave, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and ZigBee, to name a few. Bluetooth is mainly used in consumer electronics and mHealth devices
, while ZigBee was created specifically for home automation and HEM devices. In the domain of home area networks (HAN), AV, Wi-Fi, MoCA, HomePlug, and Ethernet are all being used. What’s more, Google recently announced that it is positioning Android@Home as an open platform for a variety of home services. Which technology it will use for is still to be found out, but the strong support of Android-based devices by consumers will mean that Google’s choice of technology could predetermine the future of the smart home market.
Second, services providers.
Originally, connected home services were led by home automation installation companies, but today more industries pick up the initiative, including telcos, home automation apps development companies, HEM providers and even gaming companies. A clear leader or a unified effort of several big tech names is required to introduce smarter living to the mass market. Ultimately, effectiveness of smart home services will depend upon the ability of service providers to create a compelling value proposition.
Thus, effective home automation should go beyond separate hardware sensors or standalone mobile apps, and be based on secure networks with interoperable protocols, strong back-end systems and open APIs to allow for innovative development. The market is full of potential, and early adopters are likely to shape the new smart home landscape of tomorrow.